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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Denon 5900 / Pioneer DV59Ai evaluation


An authorized dealer for both products allowed me to take home both of these units home which is the absolute best to evaluate any equipment. I picked up the units yesterday and since they are closed on Mondays – I had about a solid 1.5 days to play around with the gear. I probably spent about 6-7 hrs evaluating the video and about 4 -5 hrs evaluating the audio. Please do not ask me about price, which dealer or DVI / HDMI here or via PM. I will not disclose the pricing information or which dealer this is and I do not own a PJ that has DVI in. I have done a lot of business with this particular dealer since the store opened and thus we have built up a good relationship over the years and he trusts me with bringing gear home. All I’ll say is that the Denon is $1000 (CDN) more or about 67% more expensive (excluding taxes) than the DV59. So if you do your grade 10 you can figure this out!


I believe the 5900 that I have in my hands is one of the first in Canada. When I was in the store a few months back, the sales guy just literally unpacked the unit. Denon hadn’t even officially announced the unit in Canada and there is no Date Code on the back of the unit. Also, many of the menu items are not enabled that are in the manual (needs firmware upgrade?) at least the online one as there was no manual in the box.

My setup (you can take a look at my signature for room pictures).


Video: Universal Player (progressive) > Focus Enhancements CS-1 > Extron 109xi > Barco Graphics 808s > 96" * 54" High gain CRT white Screen Goo. Room is totally light controlled and I performed a greyscale on my PJ using Milori Colorfacts CF6000 (albeit with a Denon 1600 as a source) a few days prior.


I did not test the interlaced component outputs going into the scaler. If you want to know why – do a search on the scaler section and do a search for CS-1 and wave. The CS-1 scaler is only doing the scaling (no deinterlacing) to either 1280*768 or 1366* 768. These are the resolutions I run my CRT at.


Audio: Universal Player (5.1 to 5.1 bypass, Stereo to 2 ch bypass, Coax / optical to appropriate digital input) on a Bryston SP 1.7 > Acurus Five 200 power amp and Acurus A250 power amp > 7 PMC TB2, Mirage BPS-400 sub. Room has Auralex 2" sound wedges to absorb first reflections from the LCR. I did set the delays to the appropriate distances. My speaker setup is optimized for 2 ch as a priority then HT and then Multi Ch music.


I currently own a Denon 1600 and Pioneer 563 (in second system) but have also owned a Pioneer Elite DV-37, Panasonic RP-82 and Panasonic XP-30. I owned a bunch of other crap / gear like everyone else but it is not too relevant for this comparison. I will evaluate with what I currently have and not how I think it would have compared to my old stuff. So please do not ask "how does it compare with an RP-82" I’ve got a bad memory :)


Without further adieu......

The matchup


In the red corner from China weighing in at heavy 28 lbs ...... Theeeeeeeee Denon 5900. And in the blue corner from Malaysia weighing at a trim 12 lbs ….. Theeeeeeeeeee Pioneer DV59Ai

Tale of the tape: Common attributes (non PQ or AQ):


Positives:


Outputs both Progressive and Interlaced (Svideo and composite) simultaneously. This is a requirement for me as I have a 5†LCD monitor (only accepts composite) that I use to choose selections for when listening to DVD-A. On all the other players I have owned, if you run progressive, the interlaced outputs get shut off. It is a pain switching back and forth.


Tweakers delight – many different options to tweak the video.


I preferred the overall PQ on both units over the Denon 1600


Variable screen savers/ backgrounds including black. Important for me as I have a FP CRT (burn in). The only reason why I got the Denon 1600 was that it had an all Blue screen saver whereas the RP-82 had a black background with a blue DVD Audio / Video logo.


Offer both Coax and Optical


Detachable power cords if you into that type of thing


Readily available. Elite Dealers will almost certainly stock DV59’s although not all Denon Dealers will stock (carry inventory) 5900’s. At least this is what I have found at the various stores I shop at.


Plastic covering on the underside of the unit. Nice touch.


Negatives:


They are both made in the Far East. There is nothing wrong with this but not at this price point and not for flagship players. Yes there are the economics of the situation but this still sucks IMHO


Remotes stink – small buttons that are hard to navigate. No backlight just selected glow in the dark buttons. Light controlled room + no backlight = cussin’. Most people including myself will be using universals but on occasion I do use the remote for video adjustments that I do not program in my universal.


Warranty – From the literature inside the boxes: 2 yrs for the Elite and 1 yr for the Denon. If I’m not mistaken my old Made in Japan Elite DV-37 was 3 yrs. You pay big bucks especially for the Denon and they really stand by their product made in China with a one year warranty. Yes this is a slight thorn in my side.


Flimsy transport trays. Call me a nitpicker but IMHO, these plastic trays are just too flimsy. The Pioneer is worse than the Denon. At this price, they should have made a metal tray covered in plastic or at least one that uses metal rails. See my above point on warranty.


- Flimsy audio jacks, the 5.1 and stereo audio jacks aren’t that solid. If you use interconnects that have a nice tight connection (Cardas, Van Den Hul, Audioquest) you can temporarily bend the metal that holds the kind of cheapish stamped female RCA connectors. No I’m not expecting WBT or Kimber jacks but stamped RCA jacks ala $40 DVD player does not exude quality to me. Also, I am not sure how the unsupported weight of well constructed cables will affect these connections.



Denon attributes (non PQ or AQ) (Round 1)


+ two component outputs including one with BNC’s. This is a biggie for me as my next scaler will have BNC jacks exclusively and it is good to know that I will have the correct 75 ohm connection that can be achieved via BNC and not RCA’s


+ Discrete on / off on the remote. There is a master power button that turns off the unit and puts it in standby. The discrete on and off is godsend for me as I want to program an all off sequence on my MX-500. This feature is rarer than finding a brand new RP-82 in stores. Don’t know why manufactures don’t make this common. Oh yeah that is right: cost!


+ The metal casing is pretty heavy duty


- has the plastic dust cap that you can easily lose when using optical out. Why can’t they make the swing door thing like Panasonic and Pioneer.


- slow response to the menu and chapter skipping. If you press the FF or RW button really fast to say skip 3 chapters. You get the “talk to the hand†icon in the top right hand corner of the screen. You have to wait till this clears and press the FF or RW buttons again but a bit slower.

Pioneer attributes (non PQ or AQ) (Round 2)


+ I found the navigation system pretty straight forward (guess it helps owning two Pioneer Players previously)


+ The plastic door to cover the optical output prevents losing the dust cap.


- doesn’t seem as well built as my old DV-37 but this is no surprise. But the unit is by no means a poorly built unit. Far from it.


Audio Quality (AQ) (Middle Rounds)


S/W used:

Redbook: Sara K – Closer than they appear, Rickie Lee Jones – Pop Pop, Three Blind Mice – the Fabulous sounds of (Vol 1), Eagles – When Hell Freezes over, Holly Cole Trio – Girl talk


SACD: Pink Floyd – DSOTM, Shania Twain – UP, Peter Gabriel – Shaking the trees (2 ch), Norah Jones – Come away with me.


DVD-A: Grover Washington Jr – Winelight,. Queen – A night at the Opera, Dave Coz – Feel the music.


Redbook

Bass: Denon. The bass was more controlled (Eagles Hotel California – I could better localize the kick drum on the left side of the soundstage). The Pioneer seemed to wander a bit on this section of the same track. Also, the Denon seemed to have more qty of bass than the Pioneer as if someone re-eq’d the midbass region 60 –80 hz with more pop.


Detail: Denon. The plucking guitar strings in various cuts from Pop Pop and Bass strings from Girl Talk had more information. The smallest of decays (macro dynamics?) could be heard on the Denon where as the decays seemed to die off more quickly on the DV59Ai.


Denon has more native gain. Each time I switched the CDs I had to turn down the volume if going to the Denon and vice versa when going to the Pioneer. Not good or bad – just an observation.


Imaging: Denon. Voices (Holly Cole – Cruisin, Ricky Lee Jones – my one and only love, Don Henley - Desperado) – all their voices were more centred and focused but yet had more body or fullness if that is possible. Similarly, the instruments had more precise placement – all tracks but especially 3 Blind Mice.


SACD and DVD-A


Pretty much the same findings as above. Although the DVD-A on the Pioneer is much closer in almost all respects to the Denon. In DVD-A the Pioneer might have had a bit more top end sizzle if you like that type of sound.


Video Quality (PQ) (Championship Rounds)


S/W used:

Spiderman, Vertical Limit (SB), Lord of the Rings (FOTR orig), Diana Krall Live in Paris, Seabiscut, the Fifth Element (SB), Unbreakable, Bend it Like Beckham


Please note that I didn’t spend a whole lot of time perfectly dialing in both units. I did make sure the basic stuff was right eg 0 IRE for my setup etc. I ran in Auto 1 and Auto 2 modes for both players.


Pans: Denon esp top to bottom (Spiderman scene with Ballons + Macy Gray etc) is definitely smoother than the Pioneer. The Pioneer has a small amount of jerkiness.


Cleanliness: Denon has a cleaner picture (less grain noise on single color area scenes) this can be seen in many of the sky scenes in Spiderman, LOTR and Seabiscut


Detaiil: wash both players exhibit a whole lot of detail without artifacts. First scene from Vertical Limit – the rocks; Desert scene from 5th element – the sand and the detail in the rocks, glass smudges when reconstructing Milla and in the Taxi.


Color: a wash. Both can be tweaked to your liking. Race scenes in Seabiscut (grass, dirt, jockey’s uniforms); Bend it like Beckham – the traditional East Indian Clothing.


Low level shadow detail: wash - The low level detail in the blacks etc are pretty close – if anything I would give a slight edge to the Pioneer. Again with some dialing in, I’m sure this would be equal. Scene where Spiderman fights off thugs in a dark alley and kisses MJ. Pretty much the whole Diana Krall concert.

Other Misc notes.


I did use the Svideo output of both units to my IBM ILV-300 (InFocus X-1) and the picture on the ILV-300 has no right to look this good for such a cheap PJ. I am not prone to rainbows BTW. I also tried my scaler feeding the ILV-300 at the native rates I run my CRT on and it didn’t look as good (soft). Understandably as I’m scaling up the image and then the PJ is scaling down the image.

The Decision ………………


Now the $64,000 question or shall I say the $1000 question? Which player will I choose? First let me say that I would be more than happy owning either player for different reasons. The Denon is “better†in many performance areas but these are by very small margins. When going to top level equipment there is the law of diminishing returns. How much are you willing to pay for these small increments in performance? Christmas is three days away, I’ll pickup the Denon even though I have some hesitations regarding the QC and 1 year warranty. I do have to make sure that the unit in the box has the menu items available (like speaker setup large / small / BM) Too bad the store that lent me the players doesn’t take Amex as I could use this to extend the warranty to 2 years as part my CC benefits. Again these are my opinions based on the units in my environment. Well, I’ve got some relatives from out of town staying at my place and they are currently watching Bend it like Beckham and then Pirates of the Caribbean. I’m going to join them.


Here is a picture of the front of both units
 

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Thank you for your review.
 

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Great review, thanks......

However I believe that the digital outputs, both video (DVI/HDMI) and audio (iLink) must be put under heavy, heavy scrutiny, particularly with their respective counterparts (49TXi & 580?). This is were these two units are meant to perform their best. And this is probably where the 59Ai would pull even or possibly ahead (or not) of the 5900, I think.


Regards,


dc
 

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For those running the DV59-AVi over HDMI->DVI: Is there any noise/signal disruption in using HDMI to DVI conversion cables? Or will the Geffen (or whatever other brand) cables render 100% distortion free via DVI inputs. Just wondering if this presumably extra step (going from HDMI to DVI) will create any problems over a straight DVI -> DVI connection.


cheers

chris
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Cowl
For those running the DV59-AVi over HDMI->DVI: Is there any noise/signal disruption in using HDMI to DVI conversion cables? Or will the Geffen (or whatever other brand) cables render 100% distortion free via DVI inputs. Just wondering if this presumably extra step (going from HDMI to DVI) will create any problems over a straight DVI -> DVI connection.

Cowl, you will be happy to hear that there is no signal conversion between HDMI and DVI. The video signal is carried straight through on the same ol' wires. HDMI adds some pins to carry audio. The DVI doesn't carry an audio signal. So HDMI uses a different connector with more pins, but has the same video signal as DVI.


--Ken
 

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EC,


Thanks for the comparison. However, I'm not clear about your audio set up. Did you compare both unit from the 2ch outputs or the 5.1ch? Also, with or without Bass Management? The Bass Management can be a detrimental factor on some units.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by HiRes_PR
EC,


Thanks for the comparison. However, I'm not clear about your audio set up. Did you compare both unit from the 2ch outputs or the 5.1ch? Also, with or without Bass Management? The Bass Management can be a detrimental factor on some units.
Absolutely, I used the 2 ch outputs for Redbook CDs eg normal CDs and the 5.1 outputs for Multi channel Music (see audio setup). There is no BM for 2 ch. If there was, I certainly did not use it nor do I want to. As for BM for 5.1 - the Denon would not let me into that setup area (it was greyed out - preproduction unit / old firmware?) I had everything set to Large with sub on (Pioneer)- so the BM was not used. I assume this is how the Denon was setup out of the box. Both units sounded pretty close and I didn't have any "holes" in any areas below around 120 Hz that I could tell. I did add the 10db boost for the sub on the Denon but this should have no bearing on 2 ch material as there is no sub involved. The bass still had more qty in pure 2 ch mode (redbook). I will heading to the dealer in about 2 hrs where I will pickup my Denon. I will verify that these options are available. From a personal preference - I like x-over the sub and mains at around 50 - 60 vs the defacto 80 on my pre pro when I do use BM.
 

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As someone else pointed out.. the i.Link for audio and HDMI for video are the reason to seriously look at the DV49Ai. That is why I went that route.. (I have a 49TXi and a Sony HS-10...) Watched my first movie with the full digital experience last night.. I have no regrets.. ;)


--Mark
 

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true except the denons daccs are off better quality than the denon or pioneer recievers so the 5900 will sound better using the analouge output rather than the i-link out.

see kris deerings thread elsewhere for full explanation
 

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EC,

To access the bass management on the 5900, you need to select multi-channel in the audio setup menu.

IMO, the BM on the 5900 is as full featured as it gets.

It's great to be able to separately calibrate SACD & DVD-A from DD & DTS.

Make sure to select the enhanced bass option and crank up the subwoofer

level in there as well.

Th enhanced bass will make use of the subwoofer for 2-channel listening, i.e., cds.

I totally disagree that BM is detrimental in anyway.

The only reason you wouldn't want to use BM is if you have 5 full range speakers capable of reproducing bass to 20hz, which very few people have.

Also make sure to access the ETC menu and set player mode to AUDIO otherwise you will not be able to select the MLP layer on any DVD-A disc.

This drove me nuts for about 20 minutes until I checked that menu.

As far as i.link/1394 connectivity is concerned, the 5900's 1394 out should be compatible with 1394 inputs but is not at the present time.

Denon will very likely be addressing the issue in the near term, but as has

been repeated ad nauseam, why would you want to use the digital out on the 5900 when it has PCM and DSD DACs that are superior to any receiver and 99% of any currently available pre/pro.

And thanks for the thoughtful, even-handed review.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:
To access the bass management on the 5900, you need to select multi-channel in the audio setup menu.

IMO, the BM on the 5900 is as full featured as it gets.

It's great to be able to separately calibrate SACD & DVD-A from DD & DTS.
I did set this to multi and did follow the manual (got this online) but this and some other options were simply greyed out and unavailable. I did confirm with the dealer today when I retuned the players that this is one of the first units in Canada and that all the features may not have been enabled on the menu. He called Denon to have this and some of my other questions answered as well.

Quote:
Th enhanced bass will make use of the subwoofer for 2-channel listening, i.e., cds. I totally disagree that BM is detrimental in anyway.

The only reason you wouldn't want to use BM is if you have 5 full range speakers capable of reproducing bass to 20hz, which very few people have.
The reason why I do not want to BM for 2 ch is that on my prepro there is an option to allow a full range signal to pass to the sub in 2 ch bypass. I do have this set in such a manner that the sub provides "bass assist" when listening to any 2 ch sources in bypass mode including good ol 12" vinyl. So setting up a "bass assist" or BM scenario with the 5900 for 2 ch will not necessarily jive well with the settings on my prepro for my other 2 ch sources. If I didn't have the vinyl requirement this would not be an issue. 2 ch music reproduction is my first priority I do intend to use the BM features when listening to SACD and DVD-A when I do get my unit (Denon Canada is backordered till Jan). On paper the BM features of the 5900 look fantastic in terms of flexibility. I just wish I could have used them during my short play time.

Quote:
Also make sure to access the ETC menu and set player mode to AUDIO otherwise you will not be able to select the MLP layer on any DVD-A disc.
Yeah - I had to figure this one out too as my DVD A's were playing from either their DTS track or DD track according to the LCD. Scratched my head a bit and then figured this out. I think the Queen DVD-A defaulted to DTS when this option was not set and the Grover Washington defaulted to DD. Luckily this item was not greyed out and I could change it. Since most of the other items were greyed out it was easier for me to find :)

Quote:
why would you want to use the digital out on the 5900 when it has PCM and DSD DACs that are superior to any receiver and 99% of any currently available pre/pro.
I agree for DVD A and SACD. Also I do not plan on using a flagship receiver anytime in the near future in my main setup. I think I have a pretty decent seperates setup currently which has the performance and features that I require. This is not a troll for Receivers vs Seperates because I got both.

Quote:
And thanks for the thoughtful, even-handed review.
Thanks - I try to be fair and call it like I see it.


As for DVI and HDMI, I could not test this in my environment. In about 3 - 5 years if I replace my trusty ol' CRT with a Digital, I hopefully will be future proofed. This is why I did not consider the Denon 2900 which is about the same price as the Pioneer DV59Ai.
 

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Great review. You have to let us know what you decide. Then there is which is the better absolute performer, and "bang for the buck" (performance as a function of cost). Especially considering that the Pioneer is cheaper, and seems to be more heavily discounted than the Denon.
 

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Kevin said:
Quote:
You have to let us know what you decide.
Eric said in post #8 above:
Quote:
I will heading to the dealer in about 2 hrs where I will pickup my Denon.
Congrats Eric...great choice, but I am biased. ;) Thanks for the review.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by gandley
true except the denons daccs are off better quality than the denon or pioneer recievers so the 5900 will sound better using the analouge output rather than the i-link out.

see kris deerings thread elsewhere for full explanation
yeah Denon is always stating that in their higher end DVD players you should connect through the analog output. I do not buy that specially for the 49TXi. The speaker calibration in the 49TXi is a long way better than the 5900 dvd player. And that makes a lot of difference. Recently I tested the SONY XA9000ES SACD player with the 49TXi. The XA9000ES is one of the best SACD players around and the analogue output is superb but its bass manageament cannot compete with the 49Txi's, so when I hooked it up via the i-Link the sound was as superb as from the analogue outs and better balanced (bass wise) than through the analogue. Until Denon fixes its i-Link to be compatible with other products I'm not even considering it.:)
 

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The 5900 has decent dacs but I preferred the dacs in my Parasound halo c2 for movies and cd listening after lots of comparing on the fly.


A few well placed capacitors in the 5900 and I am sure I would prefer the sound of its dacs though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by John the Depot Dude
Did you get your 5900 Eric?


What scaler with BNC's are you getting and when?
The 5900 should be in sometime in early January. The dealer did say that he may have one sealed box of the 5900 from his original shipment. I advised him not to check as chances are that I would have to enable the DVI port on that myself. I was thinking of getting the Lumagen Vision Pro (with SDI) but it looks like I will use the upgrade plan from FE and get a CS-2 with SDI in the new year as it would be cheaper for me and less PITA factor (selling the old CS-1). Both the Vision Pro and CS-2 utilize BNC's for a solid and pure 75 ohm connection. I will keep my Denon 1600 and mod it the PMSvideo SDI kit. So in a few weeks, I can compare three different inputs on the CS-2 / Denon 1600 / Denon 5900: SDI, component, component progressive and see which one I like the best. The scaled output from the 5900 / CS-1 looks outstanding and I doubt the modded SDI Denon 1600 will beat it. If it does, I will have to find a way to mod the 5900 with SDI once the warranty expires.
 
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